fasting during ramadan
fasting during ramadan

Tips For Fasting Safely During Ramadan When You Have A Chronic Condition

Posted on March 6, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset as part of their religious observance. While refraining from eating or drinking can be challenging, healthy adults can do it safely.

But fasting could increase the risk of complications if you have a chronic medical condition. “Your physician can recommend whether it’s safe for you to fast and any changes to your medications if you choose to do so,” says Allegra Picano, RDN, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health.

When To See Your Doctor Before Fasting For Ramadan

Fasting poses health risks for people with many chronic conditions, including:

  • Diabetes: People with insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes or poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes could experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during fasting periods. They are also at risk for ketoacidosis, which occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin for energy. Instead, the liver breaks down fats for energy, creating acids (ketones) that can reach life-threatening levels.
  • Chronic kidney disease: For people with kidney disease, especially those with more advanced conditions, fasting poses a risk for dehydration. It may also lead to further kidney damage.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): People with high blood pressure may take diuretics (water pills) to remove excess water and sodium from their body. These individuals are at increased risk for dehydration if they stop drinking fluids for a large portion of the day.
  • Peptic ulcers: Fasting can increase the risk for complications from active peptic ulcers, which are sores that develop in the stomach and small intestine.
  • Cancer: People receiving chemotherapy and other cancer treatments need additional calories to maintain muscle mass and energy. Fasting may make it difficult to meet these daily nutrition requirements.

To avoid complications from fasting, Picano recommends seeing your doctor two or more weeks before Ramadan begins. Your physician can advise you:

  • Whether it is safe for you to fast
  • How to adjust the dose or schedule for your medications during fasting
  • How to manage your health condition during fasting, such as checking blood sugar (glucose) or blood pressure levels

Tips For Healthy Fasting During Ramadan

Your physician or dietitian can also help you make a meal plan before Ramadan begins. Picano recommends incorporating these strategies when fasting:

  • Prioritize nutrition: Plan a well-balanced menu for the meal before sunrise (Suhoor) and after sunset (Iftar). Choose foods high in fiber that are nutritious and filling, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. Eat lean proteins, fruits and vegetables to give you the vitamins, minerals and energy you need throughout the day and night.
  • Avoid foods high in fat, sodium and sugar: Skip foods high in saturated and trans fats and salt, including refined carbohydrates and processed foods. These foods can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Foods high in salt can also increase blood pressure.
  • Stay hydrated: Prevent dehydration by drinking liquids, especially water, at meals, in the evening and early morning. Avoid sugary beverages, which can increase blood sugar levels, and caffeine, which can interfere with sleep.
  • Control meal portions: Avoid overeating and weight gain during Ramadan by managing portions. Practice mindful eating to focus on enjoying your meals and celebrations with family and friends.

Signs You Need to Stop Fasting During Ramadan

Picano recommends stopping fasting if you experience these conditions or symptoms:

  • Low blood sugar levels: Break the fast if your blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dl, which increases the risk for hypoglycemia. Watch for symptoms of this condition, which include rapid heart rate, dizziness and confusion.
  • Dehydration: Watch for symptoms such as feeling faint or having dry mouth, lips or eyes.
  • Difficulty producing urine: People affected by kidney disease may be unable to urinate during fasting, indicating dehydration and the risk for other complications.
  • Signs of an acute illness: Seek immediate medical care if you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, high fever or trauma.

“Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your health during Ramadan,” says Picano.


Looking for more nutrition advice and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.

Allegra Picano is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Categories : FeelWell
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